Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The internet: A wild west that actually function(ed)

While it is true that there are bad people doing bad things on the internet, these are such a small minority, and they have become somewhat predictable, and almost expected by the majority of users. I see less blind trust from even the most ignorant of computer users that I deal with IRL. The scope of damage that bad people can cause gets smaller as more ignorant computer users become informed that bad people will always choose to do bad things. Ignorance, is the enemy that must be fought in this particular war, that war is always fought with knowledge.

Granted, I think there are worse things being done by worse people that nobody 'official' will be addressing, and will probably be relegated to footnotes if not completely ignored by me in this post as well... An unfortunate side-effect of this world's method of raising minor distractions to cover for the big picture. But, they must work in small increments, and I must protest these small increments to prevent the big picture from getting closer to reality.

What am I talking about? This rumour I am hearing about the U.N. somehow being given control of the internet... It hasn't happened yet, but the idea appears to be out there. Before I even examine any of the points being made, may I point out that the U.N. has already failed in it's largest duty (A.K.A. 'stated objectives') which, first and foremost, was something called 'Peacekeeping'. I am not sure if this word has some hidden meaning wherein it becomes regime change to suit U.S. interests, but it would appear so, and since U.S. interests would appear to conflict with 'peace' as well as the U.N.'s second stated objective 'human rights', then this organization has failed and needs to be dismantled, not be given yet another 'objective' to completely f*ck up.

The internet: a Primer

Before going any further, let me explain who ultimately controls the internet right now: ICANN. This is a non-profit group with a multi-stakeholder board of directors who have thus far, made the internet what it is. They do not provide us the content, they don't police the content, they just provide the specifications and standards that allow us to make our own content, host our own servers (if desired), sell internet access (if you can afford the infrastructure), find web sites using friendly(er) names like instead of and other such things... It is much more complicated than I will describe here, but, regardless of that fact, most of what they do is not visible to the average internet user. ICANN has been in place since September 1998 when a number of smaller groups (existing over the prior 10 years) were amalgamated into one.

The internet has come a long way since 1998, and to some degree that was thanks to them... I suppose you could think of them as 'automotive engineers who decided to give their research away freely as a guideline': they did not invent the combustion engine, they did not build nor sell a car, they just figured out ways to overcome certain obstacles and kept improving on things. They also run a fairly transparent operation, other than the fact that the whole underpinnings of the internet are somewhat foreign concepts to many. The literature and proposals are still made public before they are completed, and are open for debate, inclusions and/or exclusions to be considered.

It might not be a perfect system, but like anything involving humans, no system ever will be. It still seems to function better than the U.N.'s peacekeeping objective. Especially if you factor in that despite Microsoft's largest efforts to own, control, or dominate the internet as a whole, the internet has never been an absolute monopoly... It has already succeeded over well funded interests in the past, contrary to what U.S. interests appear to have controlled from the U.N.'s perspective.

What's actually scarier about U.N. controls for the internet, is who's requesting this...

CHINA is one of the countries named? Based on anything I have ever read about China's internet, their internet is not really our internet... It is a smaller subset of our internet which the Chinese people are permitted to see in the eyes of government censors. China already has near full control of it's own internet under it's own laws, regulations, and technologies, so what could it hope to gain other than to outright remove any views or opinions that expressly contradict it's own policies and interests? Why are people in other countries not going to be allowed to express their feelings about China?

Russia is also listed as supporting this... So it would appear that 'freedom' that they fancied themselves enacting once their Communist economy collapsed was less free and more dom (pronounced: dumb).

What do they propose the U.N. Control?

 **disclaimer: the only source I can find for these proposals are from the WSJ editorial by Robert McDowell or direct quotes (plagiarized or otherwise). I will continue to look for the actual source material as these quotes appear paraphrased and objectified by Robert McDowell... 
I.E. point 1 'Subject' (as in subjugate) is the authors opinion presented as fact, while I might agree with the opinion I find it doubtful that any international treaty or tariff and trade agreement would use this term.
Point 2: 'foreign' is a very relative term, given the (supposed) international scope of the U.N., foreign, would appear to indicate any non-U.N. member states. I can only assume member states would not be petitioning to give their money to non-member states. 

Point 3 'Impose unprecedented economic regulations', 'impose' is another form of subjugate as outlined above, and 'unprecedented' appears to be purely an opinion and undoubtedly is not used in the draft that Russia and China are proposing...
Despite these opinions presented as fact I will examine them and argue them as if they are fact as I presently have little else to work with. Besides, I feel some of his arguments are flawed, and the wording of the points themselves sometimes convey even worse than 'messing up cloud computing' or other such IT buzzword fads who's bubble will burst like the dotBomb ideas that they are.
Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;
International legislation always seems to use the lowest common denominator approach. We don't want to inflict less control to any one government, so we grant more control than the majority have already taken for themselves. Human Rights be damned. I also presume "privacy" is something in the title that will not be covered within the chapter.
Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for "international" Internet traffic, perhaps even on a "per-click" basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;
This proves my point that government does not understand the internet... When you visit a web site (aka clicking a link), your computer makes requests to a large array of servers to find the IP address, then follows the same process to visit the sponsors providing ever bit of advertising on that pages (which can range from none to hundreds), then makes the same requests to update any 3rd party web statistics providers (google analytics being a large one these days)... In some cases these are visible to the end user, and in others they are invisible, but all said, to get to one page your computer could look up the IP address of anywhere from 15 to hundreds of servers... That is what the internet can see... The browser can see 'clicks' but that does not imply that clicks cannot be falsely created by malicious software programmers as well... in both cases the browser and the malicious software are running on the users machine and this 'click' is not really captured by the internet itself.

The second problem, and further proof that government does not understand the internet: If I visit a web site, it does not behave like a telephone connection where a physical line (or signal path) is opened and kept opened until either party hangs up. Instead, the page is split into hundreds if not thousands of small data packets by the server, then reassembled on the users computer. While it might work out that all of those data packets used the exact same signal path chances of that being true are smaller and smaller as the distance between the user and the web server increase because the data packet does not care how it gets from A to B, nor does it care in what order it arrives. This means if a switch in New York goes down data will reroute itself around the affected signal path...

Only users on a direct line to that switching station going to be knocked off the internet during the problem. So a small user-base in New York won't have internet service until the switch is back online. This not only allows a non-central communications web, but it means data finds the most efficient path in the event that there is heavy traffic in one location. In effect, if I were accessing a server in San Francisco from New York, some of my data packets might have found their path through satellite, others directly across the U.S. in a fairly straight line, some up to Toronto and back, etc... I had no control over that process, but there was a definite hand-off from MCI to Bell Canada and back to MCI that occurred across one international border and back.

Trying to legislate this will not work without fundamentally rebuilding the internet from the ground up, and, in the process, breaking the redundancy. Taxing or charging pay per click fees could only mean forcing spyware to be included in all web browsers... Piracy will counter that within hours.
Impose unprecedented economic regulations such as mandates for rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated traffic-swapping agreements known as "peering."
Peering costs have dropped exponentially over the past 15 years for a few reasons, but most of all, the over-purchase of bandwidth during the dotBomb bubble... And no thanks worldcom it all went up for auction and many of 'us' went from working in the telco manufacturing supply lines, to waiting in the food bank line. Regulation of anything by government bodies generally increases it's cost, and by proxy it's price.
Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;
I have already made mention that ICANN has a much larger scope than simple domain name assignments... It's the 'other' things they do where I become doubtful of bureaucratic government ability to 'innovate' since most governments are proven to be unable to innovate.
Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;
Yes, this is the 'other' things I was talking about in the paragraph above... These are not functions that lawyers (because most politicians were lawyers at some point) are well versed in. Look at anything I have discussed on SOPA and PIPA...
Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices.
Because the Free Market system is less efficient than communism? Who would be gaining from this? Tourists? CEOs? I am inclined to agree that mobile carriers are gouging people and colluding with each other to fix prices artificially high... But does this not fall under 'monopolistic practices' and is therefore punishable under most criminal codes?

I am aware that ICANN was born in the U.S.A. as was the internet... The largest portion of it's infrastructure is also physically located there too... Again, it may not be a perfect system, but until we can find 'humans' without 'ulterior motives', or methods to streamline organizations larger than one person to prevent bureaucracy from finding a foothold, there may not be much better... And with the U.N.s track record for preventing wars of aggression, prosecuting war crimes (outside of Nuremberg), protecting human rights, and any other thing they claim to stand for I think we're all better off leaving it to ICANN... What we have seen thus far has been improved performance, improved functionality, and  a reasonable amount of innovation... I won't say they've never dropped the ball, but who hasn't? And when government drops the ball it's like a giant wrecking ball of immolation, with no bounce...

ICANN has made a framework, then companies install hardware and sell access for users and companies alike to read or publish content of whatever type... Some users might want to research a company over it's competitors, some use it for communications and news, some use it for learning and research, some use it for games and entertainment, some surf pr0n, some break the law, the endless combinations of what's available makes it exactly as sale-able as it is... No not everybody turned into overnight millionaires, and not everybody yet understands how it could augment their business model. But thus far the internet might be the single most important invention created by humankind (next to the wheel, because fire really created itself), due to it's ability to unite us across vast distances, and share ideas and innovate, and broaden our knowledge of the world without going outside... The U.N. will manage to break it, and it will lose it's appeal to all of us.


No comments:

Post a Comment